Rate this
0 (0 votes)
“We need electricity, but not at this price"
0 out of 5 based on 0 user ratings

“We need electricity, but not at this price"

Mehzabin AhmedA proposed coal-based power plant could answer the demand for electricity, writes Mehzabin Ahmed, 29, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Dhaka in Bangladesh, but there is already opposition to the cost it will impose on the environment and local livelihood.

Sunderbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest, extends across India and Bangladesh. Known for its wide range of flora and fauna, including the famed Royal Bengal Tiger, it is no stranger to the world.

Scarred by natural disasters such as Cyclones Sidr and Aila, it faces a new man-made threat today.

A 1,320 megawatt coal-based thermal power plant is to be set up in Rampal, Bagerhat, Bangladesh, only 14 kilometers from the Sunderbans. A joint venture between Bangladesh and India, the deal was signed on 20th April, 2013, against warnings by environmentalists that the plant would have a disastrous impact on the nearby Sunderbans.

Locals began agitation to save their agricultural land as soon as the government stepped in to begin acquiring 1,834 acres of land for the power plant. The development is a threat to their land and livelihood.

Sunderbans is a Ramser site and an UNESCO World Heritage site. Critics have rejected the Environment Impact Assessment Report on the power plant, and express concern about the probable adverse effects on the bio-diversity of the Sunderbans. They argue that the project would violate the Ramser Convention, the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Ecologically Critical Area (ECA) Act, Bangladesh Environment Conservation Rules, and Forest Acts.

Experts of Khulna University and Bangladesh Agriculture University through two independent studies have cautioned about the enormity of the impending disaster. Engineer Sheikh Muhammad Shaheedullah, Convener of the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports, referred to his study on the area and expressed the opinion that the proposal to locate the plant near the Sunderbans would cause more natural disasters like Cyclones Sidr and Aila. Excessive salinity and river erosion have already resulted in deaths of large number of trees and vegetation in the area since Cyclones Sidr and Aila in 2007 and 2010 respectively.

Protestors also question why the National Thermal Power Company of India could obtain clearance for the Rampal power plant project in Bangladesh, while the same company was not allowed to build a coal-based power plant on the Indian side of the Sunderbans.

The cost of electricity produced by the plant has been questioned. Critics argue the government can obtain electricity at a cheaper rate from local plants than from this joint venture with India. The National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power, and Ports Member Secretary Professor Anu Muhammad has termed the power deal unequal and non-transparent. 

Bangladesh Paribesh Andolan General Secretary Mohammad Abdul Mati says the government has taken contradictory positions on the Sundarban by campaigning for its election as one of the seven natural wonders of the world, and at the same time planning to install the plant near the forest. On the other hand, Consumers Association of Bangladesh Energy Advisor M Shamsul Alam reiterated that countries are no longer approving coal-fired power plant projects because of their impact on the environment.
 
In response to the controversy, the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports has called a Long March from Dhaka to Rampal, Bagerhat from September 24th, 2013 to September 28th, 2013 to protest against the Sunderbans power plant.
 

While Bangladesh needs electricity, the question remains whether it should come at the cost of the Sunderbans, the environment and the community it enriches. It’s also about time we started paying attention to the environment and possible impacts on climate change, for our children and their grandchildren thereafter.

Photo: Part of a poster reading “We do not want a power plant at the cost of Sunderban”, designed by National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports, Bangladesh 

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

About me:

“I come from Bangladesh, home to the Royal Bengal tigers and the longest natural beach in the world. I am passionate about working for sustainable solutions to development. I currently work as a development practitioner in Dhaka, Bangladesh. I am also a freelance journalist and a novice debater.

“I am bilingual in Bangla and English. I love learning new languages, and am a keen but elementary student of French. What I have learnt from wise words and life experiences is that, “If you want others to change, you have to be willing to change yourself as well”. Feel free to call me Simi.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Comments

comments

Powered by Facebook Comments